How can individuals and societies protect themselves against the encroachment and abuse of government power in the modern age?
By Rhonda Dolen
If one stands and watches a mass of people in a dark night, take one candle, and with it, light all the other candles held by hopeful hands under dark skies, until the night flickers with a brilliant beauty from star-like, flickering candles, lighting the darkened landscape; then one is witnessing a representation of the power of words, words that are filled with appeals to humanity, to justice, to reason, to freedom, to an end to corruption. Appeals to justice and humanity catch fire in people’s souls until soldiers accept flowers in the barrels of their guns and stand down as iron curtains are ripped to pieces.
The best way to fight off the encroachment and abuse of government power in the modern age is by appealing to the quality of being humane – by appealing to humanity. These appeals to humanity should encourage people to recognize the vital importance of supporting WikiLeaks and organizations like it - and of supporting whistleblowers in general.
Appeals to humanity have achieved exquisite victories in modern history with no weapons but voices. Gandhi in India, Martin Luther King, Jr. in America’s southern states, the recent Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, all testify to the power of our better natures when we stand up and say, “Enough!” And indeed, the use of weapons by individuals against modern governments would be a hopeless, and at the very least, bloody endeavor in most cases.
The weaponry power of states has never been so great. Individuals and societies, in order to be truly free, must enlist genuine nonviolent support from people who are motivated by humanity to fight off the ever-growing hand of governments’ powers and their iron fist'ed abuses the world over - whether it be corruption in public policyor questionable war-related decisions in democracies or even the naked subjugation of citizens in dictatorial states.
The best way to do this is for people to speak boldly out in support of whistleblowers and in support of WikiLeaks and organizations like it. It is especially vital that people in democracies, who face less risk by speaking out, be encouraged to do so.
Those who believe they live in democracies should take the opportunity to support themselves while they can, and to support those who live in states where the iron boots can often seem too heavy to crawl out from under, by speaking out while they can. After all, people all over the Middle East, where speech is severely curtailed, are throwing off chains. People in ‘freer’ countries must continue to support organizations that threaten corrupt governments. People in freer countries must turn their eyes even inward to the corruption in their own governments as well.
Corruption will grow like a cancer if not checked. When one sees injustice, one who still has vestiges of freedom in one’s country should not stay silent; one should share it with everyone one knows; one should write letters; one should financially support those seeking to right these injustices; one should ask that the injustice stop. An injustice recognized, cannot long stand the sweeping flame of human recognition. As people recognize injustice, one by one, the majority will light up inside like candles against a night of oppression.
WikiLeaks is a vehicle that can help to make corruption, oppression, torture, twisted public policy deals and government abuse risky. Large corporations, too, some of them with yearly revenue rivaling nation states, are encouraged to be honest and fair by the mere existence of WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks and organizations like it can provide a check on increasing government power. Corporate power too, needs a check. If people were made to understand that WikiLeaks presents the possibility of making corruption an exceedingly increasingly risky activity for all world governments and corporations, the tide of support for WikiLeaks could not be stopped.
So, people are told not to read the leaks that WikiLeaks publishes; they hint that it is treason; they are told WikiLeaks is politically motivated; they are told it is not newsworthy. They are told that we are learning nothing important. If it is not newsworthy, why is the organization being financially strangled by a financial boycott by VISA, Mastercard and Paypal, likely inspired by pressure from government? Why is its founder being held for over six months under house arrest without having been charged for a crime in any country? Why is it hinted to Americans that to even read leaked State Department cables might be a crime?
It is not just America’s government that has faced leaks, but one would hardly know that from U.S. press coverage. Conscientious American whistleblowers have supplied information to WikiLeaks about corruption in human rights and in diplomacy, yes. Prior to that, a Kenyan election appears to have been swayed by revelations from WikiLeaks. Most recently, revolutions in the Middle East apparently owe some of their fervent emotional fire to information published by WikiLeaks. Change has occurred all over the world due to revelations in leaks provided to WikiLeaks by whistleblowers, even now, while WikiLeaks is being strangled by the iron hands of multiple governments. WikiLeaks is the People’s Intelligence Agency, as it calls itself.
Shouldn’t you want to know about corrupt activities your government may be up to?
Whistleblowers are like candle-lighters. Let people be courageous enough to take up candles themselves from a whistleblower’s flame and light the candles of others. As the candles burn with an increasingly brilliant light, turning night to day, like the sun, the Sunshine Press, as WikiLeaks also calls itself, can provide its disinfectant and inspire others to join the fight. “Sunshine is the best disinfectant” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis stated. As Julian Assange states, “Courage is contagious.” Courage can catch on, just like one candle can light a multitude of other candles and an idea can spread like a wildfire.
Of course governments need to keep secrets, but it is their responsibility to do so, not ours, and if those secrets are about a government’s corrupt practices, why should it be called treason if the people are leaked legitimately important information about corruption? It is not the people who fear WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is being maligned to the people by their corrupt leaders. It is the corrupt leaders who fear WikiLeaks.
As Assange has suggested, if governments and corporations know corrupt practices may easily be exposed, individuals in government and corporate life will begin to see corruption as increasingly risky. WikiLeaks provides true anonymity to its sources. One could drop off one’s info in their secure “electronic box” and WikiLeaks itself would have no idea who its sources were. Thus, its staff and managers could not be compelled to testify as to who their sources were.
It would be impossible because they could not identify the source. The reason WikiLeaks cannot tell a government who its sources are is due to the technological set up of its site that shields them from the identity of the source.
Despite this anonymity, WikiLeaks is able to work to verify all the information it receives quite thoroughly. Its accuracy does not seem to be in question. They have sent staff to Iraq, for instance, to investigate the footage they received that became the Collateral Murder video.
With the power of anonymity, sources can feel secure, and information about corruption will flow in. Suddenly corrupt people can never be sure that their corrupt practices won’t be leaked by emboldened, anonymous whistleblowers, ending up as front page news. If this novel idea is allowed to continue unimpeded, there are few politicians who will not fear it, because few politicians are not corrupt. They might be forced to significantly reduce the extent of their corruption.
And so the smear campaign has been set loose. WikiLeaks is accused of endangering people but even the Pentagon admits it cannot find a single person physically harmed by the release of its leaks. Assange is dragged through the mud with ad hominem attacks and vitriol that tries to pass for journalism by journalists eager not to arouse the wrath of governments that kill in dictatorial countries and democracies that will, incredibly, threaten or hint to journalists that they may be charged with treason.
Despite this backlash by the corrupt, the majority of people must be inspired to support organizations like WikiLeaks and support whistleblowers and reformers. How can reformers operate and clean out corrupt politicians if whistleblowers face solitary confinement, life in prison, torture or execution even in democracies that claim to be beacons of light? How can reformers and whistleblowers work their magic if the organization they could once so easily turn to is being ravaged with barely a peep from the hoodwinked people?
Democratic governments are using the threat of terrorism to garner increasing powers of surveillance over its peoples. WikiLeaks adamantly supports people’s freedom from intrusive government surveillance that violates civil liberties while calling for increasing scrutiny of leaders, who are entrusted with great power and whose back room deals should therefore be subject to exposure, when those deals are based on corruption. WikiLeaks allows us to take technology and use it for the people, to help turn the tide of increasing government intrusion, power and corruption by giving whistleblowers anonymity.
Bradley Manning, alleged U.S. State Department cables and Collateral Murder video whistleblower, may have slipped up and revealed himself. WikiLeaks did not identify him and cannot know if he is its source for that information. People must come to realize that WikiLeaks and similar organizations and whistleblowers should be protected from the politicians who want to crush them. People who recognize what is happening must have courage and try to set the flame of courage in others’ hearts because “Courage is contagious.” If we can get candles of the human soul lighting all around us, eventually, this may spread over the globe and we can have a new, effective check against corruption.
The alternative is an increasing darkness, difficulties reforming, increasing secrecy and control, more ridiculous laws and decisions and policies, stacks of corrupt laws in the law books of the world going unchallenged, and flickering candles of courage extinguishing all over the earth.
If governments and corporations know corrupt practices may easily be exposed, individuals in government and corporate life will begin to see corruption as increasingly risky. No power is as great as the human spirit. It has destroyed the power of dictators and corruption without using violence and it will destroy the firewall of lies that threatens to close people off from the contagious truth that can lift away curtains of corruption.
Speak out boldly for reform, for whistleblowers, for the truth and for courage. Encourage people to question their politicians’ versions of the truth; encourage questions; encourage boldness. Speak boldly now. This appeal to humanity is the best way for individuals and societies to protect themselves against the encroachment and abuse of government power in the modern age. Legend tells us that before Prometheus stole fire from heaven, humans had wanted light. And sharing light is as easy as passing a candle.